At first, backup quarterback Josh McCown showed that he could step in for starter Jay Cutler and run the Bears' offense.
But now, the 34-year-old McCown has taken his game and his future in the game to a different level.
The previous two years McCown was a guy who got called late in the season when the Bears suffered serious injury problems to their regular quarterbacks.
In 2010 he was out of the NFL entirely.
Now, he's become a guy who might be in demand in the off-season, instead of a guy waiting for a phone call.
The 11-year veteran has played just seven quarters this season, and he may face his toughest challenge Sunday against the Ravens in his second start. But with a passer rating of 103.2, he's given a strong indication that he's not just a guy who can come in off the street and go to the whiteboard and diagram a play, learn a playbook and manage a game. He can take the knowledge that he's accumulated in more than a decade in the game and transfer it to the playing field.
"He's the kind of quarterback that you want to have when you come to work every day," Bears coach Marc Trestman said. "He's just like Jay. They love football. They're highly intelligent. You can communicate with them quickly. You don't have to go to the board every time you want to explain something and go through 15 minutes of why we're doing this.
"They pick it up right away, and they assimilate things very quickly. You put a pass play up, and they've had experience doing it, and they're excited about doing it. They just know how to work the locker room, and they know how to work the huddle."
Bottom line, if you had bought low on Josh McCown stock in September, you'd be sitting on a gold mine right now. But the 6-foot-4, 213-pounder is the last guy who'd consider coasting on his accomplishments.
He's still learning, still getting better.
"The fastest way downhill is to think that you know it," he said. "The first day that you go, 'Ah, I got it now,' that's the last day. You have to be really careful about that. I know I certainly am. There's so much to learn all the time."
And that's why McCown isn't allowing himself the luxury of looking ahead -- at least not publicly. He has proven in relief and as a spot starter that he can be as efficient and productive as almost any backup in the league and many of the starters.
That could lead to a secure No. 2 job down the road for longer than the one-year deals he's been playing for, or even a chance to compete for a starter's job. But that's not an issue for now.
"You know what? I don't want to get outside of that," McCown said. "For me, I know it's a cliché, but I have to stay right here. Because, to me, the key for my consistency and playing the way I'm playing is to stay focused on today and right now.
"If I can do that, then those choices will be there. If I don't do that, that won't matter anyway.
"So that's my focus, just worrying about today."
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